The café was bustling with activity, the lunch crowd coming in to have a quick bite before returning to the daily grind. Damien watched from his usual corner booth, sandwich and carrot sticks half-eaten on the plate in front of him. A female Yumbo was standing beside the countertop, idly watching the surrounding Humans eat while twisting a lock of her silver hair. She had a small smile at the corner of her mouth, but that was common amongst them. The Yumboes were all very kind. The waitress came around the corner with two large bags of food at that moment, bending nearly double to hand the bags to the woman.
Damien picked up a forgotten carrot stick and took a bite, glancing around the cafe. It was typical to find him here on days when he wasn’t hunting down a wanted Nibai. People watching was a nasty habit he’d picked up during his training with the Siad Almunkar, but it was something almost every trainee picked up. The lessons and constant nagging of ‘Watch your surroundings!’ was driven into his skull at every opportunity his instructors could use.
He noticed the small bell above the door ringing, a couple of Human girls walking in and waiting by the booth to be seated. The girl on the left he knew to be Katelyn Hanser, daughter of the Baron. He made sure to keep his head down. The other girl must have been from the community since he didn’t recognize her. Damien also noticed that they shied away from the Yumbo as she walked by with her bags of food, and began whispering to each other after she had gone out the door.
Damien couldn’t stop the scowl that stretched across his face. What would they have to be afraid of from a Nibai that’s literally two feet tall?! The Nibai had been a part of their society for over three hundred years, and yet there were still people out there that held prejudice against them. He was honestly disappointed in Humanity sometimes. The world should have moved past the hate and self-righteousness by now.
“Heya, Brother! What’s shaking?” Damien’s younger sister, Alyssa, dropped into the booth seat opposite him. He sighed and put down his carrot stick. So much for watching his surroundings.
“Just doing what I do best when I’m not on the job. You know how it is.” He watched as she reached over and took the other half of his sandwich, not willing to attempt a playful argument with her. He was too tired for it at the moment.
Alyssa stopped chewing the bite of sandwich she had taken from him, her expression turning thoughtful. He knew that she could tell he was upset. Instead of continuing to watch her, he turned his attention out the window.
The street was alive with movement, cars rolling past alongside horse-drawn carriages on the road, the sidewalks packed with pedestrians. He saw a Human woman tending to the flowers on the stall attached to her bicycle. Two Djinn men were unloading a delivery wagon for the grocer down the street. Everything seemed normal out there. But he knew it wasn’t.
“Dames? What’s wrong?” Looking at her, Damien knew his sister would worry over him until he told her what was on his mind. She was like their mother, always worried about something and wouldn’t stop until she was satisfied that things were better. “Is it about that report Dad got this morning?” And they could both hit the nail on the head concerning people’s problems.
Heaving a sigh, he slowly nodded and looked back to the window. His reflection was faint, but he could still see what his sister saw in him. Black hair, tanned skin, and emerald green eyes. Although he did look a bit disheveled with a day’s worth of stubble and his hair starting to show a bit of grease.
“You shouldn’t let it worry you so much, Dames. It’s down by the border, it’s too far for us to do anything besides-”
“Sit here and do nothing while dozens of Nibai are suddenly dropping like flies? No thanks, I’ll continue to be concerned, thank you.” Alyssa huffed a breath, her reflection showing her pout to him with distortion.
“Damien, we can’t do anything to help. All of them are being ruled as overdoses. We can’t stop someone from using drugs without being a part of the police. You know as well as I do that our only jurisdiction is with rogue Nibai.” She reached over and held his hand on the table.
“I know, sis.” He sighed. “But it still bothers me. Something about it just… doesn’t feel right. And I’m not going to drop it as long as it continues.”
She must have decided it wasn’t worth arguing at the moment: she turned her head to the window, as well.
They sat there for a few minutes just watching life go by beyond the pane of glass. The clinking of plates and glasses, the murmur of the other patrons, and the sound of the sizzling grill a comfortable ambiance to the siblings.
“It’s almost time.” Damien turned to look at his sister. She was talking about something he was supposed to know, but he couldn’t understand her meaning. It was late May, there wasn’t anything they were supposed to do soon except to-
Goodbye, foul mood, make way for an uncontrollable excitement.
“The border reports said that the caravan crossed a week ago. They’ll be here within a couple weeks.” Alyssa looked at him from the corner of her eye, a sly smile brightening her face.
There was one thing the Almunkar teachers could never get him to learn after four years.
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